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Greta Thunberg gets a rockstar’s reception as she lands in Glasgow and is surrounded by police guard

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Greta Thunberg received a rockstar reception as she arrived in Glasgow by train before being escorted by police guard ahead of the Cop26 summit, as world leaders prepare to discuss the climate crisis in the coming weeks.

The Swedish activist arrived at Glasgow Central station on Saturday evening at around 6.40pm, having taken a train from London, Euston, ahead of the international conference that begins formally on Sunday, with a summit of 120 dignitaries and heads of state starting the following day. 

Activists from around the world are expected to cause chaos at the climate summit, with organisers expecting up to 100,000 people at a major demonstration Friday requiring a heavy police presence. Demonstrators are calling on world leaders to take steps to prevent global temperatures from rising by more than 1.5C degrees.

After leaving the train, Ms Thunberg was surrounded by police and other activists as she made her way around the station. She later took to Twitter to announce her arrival, writing: ‘Finally in Glasgow for the #COP26! And than you for the very warm welcome,’ along with a picture of her descending an escalator through the crowds.

She travelled to Scotland after she took part in a demonstration outside a bank in London on Friday.

There, she was also mobbed by other climate change activists at the protest outside the Standard Chartered headquarters, as they lobbied against the global financial system supporting the use of fossil fuels.

As Ms Thunberg was escorted through the station and the excited crowds, video footage picked up members of her group swearing at photographers. One Scottish man was heard asking her ‘are you happy to in Glasgow,’ to which one of her minders was heard replying: ‘Get a life!’

Other climate activists from around Europe also arrived at the station on a specially chartered ‘climate train’ on Saturday evening. They were greeted with chanting and banners from groups assembled in the station.

More than 100 leaders, including Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson and US President Joe Biden, are set to attend the summit, which is considered pivotal in the fight against climate change.

Greta’s arrival in Glasgow ahead of Cop26 comes as… 

  • Pilgrimage groups have already marched through Scotland’s second largest city ahead of the summit
  • The Daily Mail reported yesterday that eco-warriors are plotting to exploit gaps in Scottish law to wreak havoc in the city as Cop26 commences to put pressure on world leaders
  • There is a growing alarm among officials at the potential chaos from activists as police brace for the ‘most complex and complicated policing operation ever seen in Britain’
  • The £100million policing operation at Cop26 represents the biggest police deployment on record in the UK
  • Downing Street said Cop26 will be one of the biggest events the UK has ever hosted
  • Speaking on Saturday, Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that Cop26 could be the ‘world’s moment of truth’, as he urged leaders to use the Glasgow summit to bring about an end to climate change
  • Mr Johnson, who is due to fly from the G20 in Rome to Glasgow on Sunday evening, said: ‘Cop26 will be the world’s moment of truth
  • A few dozen protesters demanding that government leaders take incisive action on climate change had to be carried away by police from the main boulevard near the G-20 summit site in Rome
  • Inside, Boris Johnson looked as if he had to be held back by Canadian PM Justin Trudeau when he saw French President Emmanuel Macron at the G20 summit
  • The photograph appeared to suggest the two world leaders were about to come to blows over the rising tensions caused by the fisheries row, escalated when France detained a fishing trawler earlier this week
Greta Thunberg has arrived in Glasgow ahead of the Cop26 summit, as world leaders prepare to discuss the climate crisis

Greta Thunberg has arrived in Glasgow ahead of the Cop26 summit, as world leaders prepare to discuss the climate crisis

On Saturday evening, Ms Thunberg tweeted: 'Finally in Glasgow for the #COP26! And than you for the very warm welcome', along with a picture of her surrounded by fellow activists and police officer

On Saturday evening, Ms Thunberg tweeted: ‘Finally in Glasgow for the #COP26! And than you for the very warm welcome’, along with a picture of her surrounded by fellow activists and police officer

The Swedish activist arrived at Glasgow Central station on Saturday evening, having taken a train from London Euston

The Swedish activist arrived at Glasgow Central station on Saturday evening, having taken a train from London Euston

Other climate activists from around Europe also arrived at the station on a specially chartered "climate train" on Saturday evening

Other climate activists from around Europe also arrived at the station on a specially chartered ‘climate train’ on Saturday evening

 

Nicola Sturgeon takes part in ceremony with indigenous Americans ahead of COP26

Nicola Sturgeon went barefoot to join in a ceremony with indigenous Americans who have arrived in Glasgow to take part in the Cop26 climate summit.

The First Minister took part in the ceremonial event with the Minga Indigena delegates at the international arts space Tramway in the Scottish city on Saturday.

She was joined by Panchita Calfin, a traditional healer from Patagonia, Chile, as well as Gloria Ushigua, coordinator of the Sapara women’s organisation in Ecuador and Nashieeli Valencia, an indigenous rights defender from the Zapoteca peoples, Mexico.

The event started with a brief introduction, followed by a gift exchange and a ceremonial welcome.

The First Minister and indigenous leaders then mixed water from Scotland and Patagonia, Chile, together which Ms Sturgeon was given as a token of their meeting. 

Speaking about the event Ms Sturgeon said: ‘I’m delighted to welcome the Minga Indigena to my home city for Cop26.

‘As representatives of indigenous peoples and the Global South, they have an important message to convey on behalf of those least responsible for the global climate emergency, who are often first and most severely affected by its consequences.

 

Ms Thunberg is expected to take part in other demonstrations during the two-week summit in Glasgow. 

There will be a march through the city on November 5, organised by Fridays for Future Scotland – the Scottish branch of the movement inspired by her activism. The march is planned to go through the city’s George Square.

The activist also extended an invitation to ScotRail and Glasgow’s refuse workers that had originally planned to go on strike during the Cop26 summit. 

She is also expected to speak at a rally taking place on Saturday hosted by the Cop26 Coalition.

However, Ms Thunberg has said her formal participation in the summit itself is uncertain.

In a preview for his BBC One show on Sunday, Andrew Marr asked Ms Thunberg if she had been invited to Cop26, and she responded: ‘I don’t know. It’s very unclear. Not officially. ‘I think that many people might be scared that if they invite too many radical young people, then that might make them look bad.’

Ms Thunberg, who has become one of the most recognisable faces of the climate movement, is one of the 100,000 people expected to descend of Glasgow for Cop26.

Pilgrimage groups have already marched through Glasgow as protests ramp up ahead of Cop26, while the Daily Mail reported yesterday that eco warriors are plotting to exploit gaps in Scottish law to wreak havoc.

Around 400 climate activists sized up potential loopholes during a meeting promoted by Extinction Rebellion (XR) earlier this week. Conspirators noted a recent High Court Injunction banning road blockades does not apply in Scotland – and that officers will be ‘overwhelmed’ by the scale of the protests.

It was also hinted protesters with charges against their name in England may get a blank canvas across the border as forces ‘don’t always communicate to each other’.

It comes amid growing alarm within rank-and-file officers about the potential for chaos as police brace for the ‘most complex and complicated policing operation ever seen in Britain’. 

Climate activist Greta Thunberg is mobbed by a crowd as she walks after arriving at Glasgow Central Station ahead of the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow, Scotland, Britain October 30, 2021

Climate activist Greta Thunberg is mobbed by a crowd as she walks after arriving at Glasgow Central Station ahead of the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow, Scotland, Britain October 30, 2021

Climate activist Greta Thunberg walks after arriving at Glasgow Central Station ahead of the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow, Scotland, Britain October 30, 2021

Climate activist Greta Thunberg walks after arriving at Glasgow Central Station ahead of the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow, Scotland, Britain October 30, 2021

Greta Thunberg at Euston Station in London ahead of boarding a train to Glasgow where the Cop26 summit is taking place from Monday. Picture date: Saturday October 30, 2021

Greta Thunberg at Euston Station in London ahead of boarding a train to Glasgow where the Cop26 summit is taking place from Monday. Picture date: Saturday October 30, 2021

Archbishop of Canterbury warns Cop26 outcome is ‘life or death’ for millions of people

The Archbishop of Canterbury has said the outcome of the Cop26 climate summit will be ‘life or death for millions of people’.

Justin Welby said the talks, due to begin in Glasgow on Sunday, are ’emergency surgery’ for the world and leaders must deliver for ‘the whole human family’.

Dr Welby, who worked in the oil industry before being ordained, is due to visit the summit on Monday and will meet with groups including young members of the Anglican community and indigenous people.

He warned radical action is needed but said there is still time to ‘save our world from the worst of the catastrophe’.

He said: ‘The Cop26 climate talks are emergency surgery for our world and its people.

‘The outcome will be life or death for millions of people. That’s how seriously we must take this moment.

‘The eyes of the world are on Glasgow: leaders must deliver for the whole human family. We can, and must, choose life, so that our children may live.

‘If these talks do not deliver, we face a dark, disturbing future – but there is still time, just, to save our world from the worst of the catastrophe.

‘This is a chance to start living in a way that is healthier, kinder, and better for everyone.’

The Church of England has divested from coal companies and says it will pull investment by 2023 from oil and gas firms that are not on a pathway to zero emissions.

It has also led the way on an initiative now supported by investors with funds worth 40 trillion US dollars to assess companies’ climate performance.

Dr Welby said he hopes the plight of communities most affected by climate change will be highlighted at Cop26.

 ‘It is their voices that I hope are heard, along with those of everyone on the burning front lines of climate injustice: the poorest, most vulnerable, and marginalised people already living with droughts, floods and vanishing natural resources,’ he said. 

Thousands of activists have gathered in Scotland’s largest city this weekend to make their climate change concerns known to the world leaders who will be around the negotiating table.

Attendees had come from far and wide including several other European countries, with some having walked long distances, to voice their frustrations at UN conference.

Some protesters started making their voices heard around noon on Saturday, including members of Ocean Rebellion who led a ‘dead merpeoples’ demonstration, with activists lying still entangled in netting and litter near the Clyde in Glasgow to raise awareness of marine life loss.

Members of Extinction Rebellion (XR) Faith, artists and other pilgrimage groups who have walked thousands of miles to Glasgow joined each other in a procession through the city centre on Saturday.

The event was said to be an ‘opening ceremony’ to a series of non-violent direct actions being planned in Glasgow, around the UK and the world during the United Nations climate change convention.

The procession started at 2pm at the McLennan Arch on Glasgow Green, where XR Scotland’s ‘Blue Rebels’ formed a guard of honour for the pilgrims.

Those arriving in the city included Marcha Glasgow, a group of Spanish activists who took a ferry from Bilbao to Portsmouth to embark on a 30-day hike to Glasgow.

Camino to Cop26 members have walked from London and Bristol to Glasgow in just under two months.

Young Christian Climate Network activists arrived in the city on Saturday after walking 1,200 miles from Cornwall.

Ecumenical Pilgrimage for Climate Justice arrived in Glasgow from Poland, Sweden and Germany – and Pilgrimage for Cop26 has walked from Dunbar to Glasgow.

Glasgow-based artists Zoe Walker and Neil Bromwich paraded with the Serpent of Capitalism, a 30-metre sculptural artwork alongside the pilgrimage groups.

Alex Cochrane, of XR Glasgow, said: ‘Cop26 must end a growing crime against humanity by wealthy governments where the global south are sacrificed to bear the brunt of the global north’s affluent, carbon-intensive lifestyles.

‘We welcome the pilgrims of faith – and no faith – who are walking to Cop26 to demand governments also walk the walk for the global south.’

Yaz Ashmawi, of XR Pilgrim, said: ‘Countries around the world are already suffering the consequences of our historic emissions in the west, and small island states like the Maldives will be submerged by rising seas if no immediate action is taken on the climate.

‘As people of faith we have a spiritual duty of care to those who are less fortunate than us, so we have been using this walk to raise money for activists in financially disadvantaged countries that are already impacted, to empower them to join this conversation themselves.’ 

Ocean Rebellion activists stage a protest against bottom trawling fishing near the Scottish Event Centre (SEC) in Glasgow

Ocean Rebellion activists stage a protest against bottom trawling fishing near the Scottish Event Centre (SEC) in Glasgow

Extinction Rebellion demonstrators take part in climate change protest in Glasgow, Scotland ahead of the start of COP26, Saturday

Extinction Rebellion demonstrators take part in climate change protest in Glasgow, Scotland ahead of the start of COP26, Saturday

Environmental activists stage a protest ahead of the Climate Change Conference COP26 in Glasgow, 30 October 2021

Environmental activists stage a protest ahead of the Climate Change Conference COP26 in Glasgow, 30 October 2021

Activists march during a "Pilgrims Procession", an opening ceremony to a series of non-violent direct actions being organised by the Extinction Rebellion

Activists march during a ‘Pilgrims Procession’, an opening ceremony to a series of non-violent direct actions being organised by the Extinction Rebellion

Activists march during a "Pilgrims Procession", an opening ceremony to a series of non-violent direct actions being organised by the Extinction Rebellion

Activists march during a ‘Pilgrims Procession’, an opening ceremony to a series of non-violent direct actions being organised by the Extinction Rebellion

Painted artwork is placed alongside the River Clyde ahead of the COP26 climate summit on October 30, 2021 in Glasgow

Painted artwork is placed alongside the River Clyde ahead of the COP26 climate summit on October 30, 2021 in Glasgow

Police outriders practice their vehicle escort drills ahead of the COP26 climate summit on October 30, 2021 in Glasgow

Police outriders practice their vehicle escort drills ahead of the COP26 climate summit on October 30, 2021 in Glasgow

Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon took part in the ceremonial event with the Minga Indigena delegates at the international arts space Tramway in the Scottish city on Saturday. Ms Sturgeon and indigenous leaders then mixed water from Scotland and Patagonia, Chile, together which Ms Sturgeon was given as a token of their meeting

Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon took part in the ceremonial event with the Minga Indigena delegates at the international arts space Tramway in the Scottish city on Saturday. Ms Sturgeon and indigenous leaders then mixed water from Scotland and Patagonia, Chile, together which Ms Sturgeon was given as a token of their meeting

The £100million ring of steel at Cop26 in Glasgow is the police’s BIGGEST ever deployment 

The £100million policing operation at Cop26 represents the biggest deployment of officers on record in the UK – larger than the London Olympics and the recent G7 summit in Cornwall.

An average of 10,000 officers from Police Scotland and forces around Britain will be on duty every day for three weeks, with the UK Government picking up the bill.

A ring of steel is being erected around the conference site on the north bank of the River Clyde as security forces brace for threats to the heads of state in attendance and potential disruption from climate change protesters.

And police will even deploy specially trained officers equipped with high-tech devices that can bring down rogue drones using electromagnetic pulses.

Police expect to make 300 arrests a day but sources warned if the number gets much higher, custody suites will be overwhelmed. 

Meanwhile, a report revealed last week almost half of Scotland’s police officers have experienced high levels of fatigue in the previous fortnight, which does not bode well for a three-week conference during which many will have to work 12-hour shifts.

Scotland’s lawyers have also vowed to boycott weekend custody courts amid an ongoing row over legal aid cuts. This means the justice system could be plunged into chaos by the sheer number of people arrested at the event.

American President Joe Biden is among more than 100 world leaders expected to attend the event.

The summit will also feature a climate rally in Glasgow that could be attended by more than 150,000 people.

Tens of thousands of delegates from 193 member states and four observer states will attend the summit, with the SEC conference venue designated a ‘blue zone’ – meaning it will be policed by the UN, with Scottish police only allowed to enter if there is a threat to life.  

The marches come the day before world leaders are to meet in Glasgow for the crucial climate conference where countries are under pressure to discuss and increase their ambition to tackle the climate crisis. 

On Friday, Ocean Rebellion activists poured ‘oil’ in front of Glasgow’s Cop26 venue in protest ahead of the event.

Another four XR protesters locked themselves to the Memorial Gates at the University of Glasgow using bike locks to demand that the establishment adopt the Green New Deal – a climate strategy developed by students and staff at the university.

Police Scotland Chief Constable Iain Livingstone, Scotland’s most senior police officer, said his force will respond ‘swiftly and robustly’ to protesters who try to disrupt the summit.

He said the force – together with 7,000 officers from other parts of the UK who have been deployed to Scotland to help police Cop26 – was ‘ready for the challenges that lie ahead’.

Speaking on Saturday, Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that Cop26 could be the ‘world’s moment of truth’, as he urged leaders to use the Glasgow summit to bring about an end to climate change.

With the United Nations summit due to get under way on Sunday, the Prime Minister pressed fellow world leaders to seize the moment and deliver on the target of preventing global temperatures from rising by more than 1.5C degrees above pre-industrial levels.

Downing Street said Cop26 will be one of the biggest events the UK has ever hosted, with 25,000 delegates expected from 196 countries and the European Union.

Ministers, climate negotiators, civil society and business leaders are set to take part in talks and debates over the course of the two-week conference.

Mr Johnson, who is due to fly from the G20 in Rome to Glasgow on Sunday evening, said: ‘Cop26 will be the world’s moment of truth.

‘The question everyone is asking is whether we seize this moment or let it slip away. I hope world leaders will hear them and come to Glasgow ready to answer them with decisive action.

‘Together, we can mark the beginning of the end of climate change – and end the uncertainty once and for all.’

The Conservative Party leader has not struck an optimistic tone in the lead-up to the conference, repeating in interviews while in the Italian capital that he still rated the chances of success in Scotland as no more than six out of 10. 

On Saturday, Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson (pictured with France's Emannuel Macron) said that Cop26 could be the 'world's moment of truth', as he urged leaders to use the Glasgow summit to bring about an end to climate change

On Saturday, Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson (pictured with France’s Emannuel Macron) said that Cop26 could be the ‘world’s moment of truth’, as he urged leaders to use the Glasgow summit to bring about an end to climate change

A demonstrator wears a death mask during environmental protests at G20

A demonstrator wears a death mask during environmental protests at G20

Police in riot gear clear the road by moving the Climate Camp activists

Police in riot gear clear the road by moving the Climate Camp activists

US officials taste haggis ahead of Cop26 

A group of US officials have enjoyed a tasting menu of Scottish cuisine, including Irn Bru and haggis, ahead of the Cop26 summit in Glasgow.

The charge d’affaires at the US embassy in London, Philip Reeker, shared a video on Twitter of himself and fellow representatives whetting their appetites with an array of delicacies, including square sausage and Cranachan.

‘That’s not a bad soda,’ said Mr Reeker as he sipped a glass of Glasgow-brewed Irn Bru.

Other delights enjoyed by the American team include cullen skink – a soup made from smoked haddock, potatoes and onions – which the testers said ‘looks like an omelette’ but tasted ‘fabulous’.

Haggis was similarly well received, but when told it contains sheep’s heart, lungs and liver, Mr Reeker responded: ‘You probably shouldn’t sell it with that.’

Confronted with a deep-fried Mars bar, the officials seemed bemused by an apparent similarity between American and Scottish tastes, with one proclaiming: ‘Wait a minute… this is Scottish?’

One official felt there was room for improvement for square sausage, suggesting it could be accompanied by cheese or avocado.

The culinary adventure comes ahead of two weeks in Glasgow for the US officials and did not go unnoticed by Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.

‘Enjoying the best of (Scotland Food and Drink) – thank you (Mr Reeker),’ Ms Sturgeon tweeted.

‘Wishing you a warm welcome to COP26 in Glasgow.’

The Cop26 summit is aiming to urge countries to advance their net-zero commitments to the middle of the century and reduce emissions rapidly over the next decade through commitments on phasing out coal, switching to electric cars and planting trees.

Developed nations are also being urged to stump up the finance – 100 billion US dollars (£73 billion) per annum – needed by poorer nations to deal with climate change.

Number 10 said there is also a need to finalise the Paris Agreement at the event.

The summit timetable will see the Prime Minister host an opening ceremony attended by dignitaries including the Prince of Wales, before giving a speech on Monday.

Charles and Sir David Attenborough, the Cop26 People’s Advocate, will be among those to also address world leaders as British environmental advocates.

The theme of the opening ceremony, due to take place at midday, is ‘Earth to Cop’, which Downing Street said would deliver a message from the people for leaders to heed warnings and advance progress to tackle climate change.

On Monday evening, the Prime Minister will host a reception to welcome world leaders to Glasgow, alongside the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and the Duke and Duchess of Cornwall.

The Queen will address the delegates in a pre-recorded video after she was told by doctors to avoid the summit and rest following a hospital visit last week.

At the reception, guests will be offered refreshments of traditional Scottish canapes, Ridgeview vintage English sparkling wine and Cop26 blended whisky supplied by the Scotch Whisky Association.

Guests will enjoy music from a string quartet and brass quintet from the Royal Scottish National Orchestra. 

Meanwhile, a few dozen protesters demanding that government leaders take incisive action on climate change have been carried away by police from the main boulevard near the G-20 summit site in Rome. 

Hours before the leaders of the United States, Britain, France and other economic powerhouse nations arrived on Saturday for the start of the two-day gathering, the activists blocked the road, holding banners, including one that read, ‘From Rome to Glasgow, your solutions are the problem.’ 

Some wore death masks and others played soccer with a ball symbolizing the planet’s health on the first day of the summit where climate concerns are a top issue for many of the world leaders in attendance. 

Let me at him, Trudeau! Boris looks as if he’s being held back by Canadian PM when he sees Macron at G20 – after vowing legal action over fisheries row as French fishermen call Brits ‘pirates’

Inside, as world leaders posed for photographs at the G20 summit, Boris Johnson looked as if he had to be held back by Canadian PM Justin Trudeau when he saw French President Emmanuel Macron at the G20 summit.

As the Channel fisheries row continues to intensify the PM and French President came face-to-face in Rome for a group photo of world leaders.

One hilarious image seemed to capture the moment Mr Trudeau held onto Mr Johnson’s arm as they made their way onto the platform.

The photograph appeared to suggest the two world leaders were about to come to blows over the rising tensions caused by the fisheries row. 

Mr Macron grinned as European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen directed Mr Johnson to his spot.

In a round of broadcast interviews this morning, Mr Johnson warned the UK could trigger legal repercussions in the post-Brexit trade agreement as soon as next week. 

But the chief of Calais port insisted this morning that Britain faces ‘disaster’ if Mr Macron follows through on a threat to block British trawlers from French ports.  

French President Emmanuel Macron laughs as Boris Johnson is helped up the stage as he arrives for the group photo of world leaders at the La Nuvola conference center in Rome

French President Emmanuel Macron laughs as Boris Johnson is helped up the stage as he arrives for the group photo of world leaders at the La Nuvola conference center in Rome 

Fishermen stand aboard the British trawler Cornelis-Gert Jan docked in the northern French port of Le Havre as it waits to be given permission to leave today

Fishermen stand aboard the British trawler Cornelis-Gert Jan docked in the northern French port of Le Havre as it waits to be given permission to leave today

In the latest stoking of the row, French counterparts have claimed the British trawler-men arrested for allegedly fishing in French waters without a licence are ‘pirates’ who ‘deserve everything they get’ for endangering the fish-stock.

Emmanuel Montard criticised the UK scallop boats for jeopardising the livelihoods of future generations by over-fishing in the waters on the Normandy coast.

The 54-year-old trawler-man is one of dozens of residents of picturesque Port en Bessin, where family have been fishing for scallops for generations.

Standing on the dock of the Normandy port he told of his anger, saying: ‘These British fishermen who come into our waters and work without a licence are pirates and deserve everything they get from French justice.’ 

Meanwhile, French PM Jean Castex has written to Ms von der Leyen seeking backing for a new hardline stance against the UK.

Paris has so far threatened to increase checks on British boats, to initiate a ‘go-slow’ strategy with Calais customs arrangements, stop UK fishing vessels from landing in French ports and to increase tariffs on energy bills in Jersey.

They are demanding that Britain grants more licences to French fishermen to access British waters.  

Mr Johnson and Mr Macron are holding talks about the Iran nuclear programme along with Joe Biden and Angela Merkel in Rome this afternoon – and will meet one-on-one at the summit tomorrow. 

Asked if there was a sense of ‘de ja vu’ after he and Mr Macron clashed over Brexit at the G7 summit earlier this year, Mr Johnson insisted he wasn’t worried about the ongoing feud and said he’s got ‘bigger fish to fry’.   

G20 leaders endorse global minimum tax and pledge to send more victims to the world’s poorer countries

Leaders of the world’s 20 biggest economies endorsed on Saturday a global minimum tax aimed at stopping big business from hiding profits in tax havens, and also agreed to get more COVID vaccines to poorer nations.

Attending their first in-person summit in two years, G20 leaders broadly backed calls to extend debt relief for impoverished countries and pledged to vaccinate 70% of the world’s population against COVID-19 by mid-2022.

However, with a crucial U.N. climate conference due to start in just two days, the G20 appeared to be struggling to throw its weight behind the sort of strong new measures that scientists say are needed to avert calamitous global warming.

Italy, hosting the gathering in Rome, put health and the economy at the top of the agenda for the first day of the meeting, with the more difficult climate discussions set for Sunday.

Underscoring the way the coronavirus crisis has up-ended the world, doctors in white coats and Red Cross workers joined the leaders for their traditional ‘family’ photograph — a tribute to the sacrifices and efforts of medics across the globe.

Addressing the opening of the meeting, being held in a steel and glass convention centre, Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi said governments had to work together to face up to the formidable challenges facing their peoples.

‘From the pandemic, to climate change, to fair and equitable taxation, going it alone is simply not an option,’ Draghi said.

The corporate tax deal was hailed as a evidence of renewed multilateral coordination, with major corporations facing a minimum 15% tax wherever they operate from 2023 to prevent them from shielding their profits in off-shore entities.

‘This is more than just a tax deal â it’s diplomacy reshaping our global economy and delivering for our people,’ U.S. President Joe Biden wrote on Twitter.

With the world roiled by rising energy prices and stretched supply chains, Biden was expected to urge G20 energy producers with spare capacity to boost production, notably Russia and Saudi Arabia, to ensure a stronger global economic recovery, a senior U.S. administration official said.

Dimmed Hopes 

Like many of the other G20 leaders in Italy, Biden will fly straight to Glasgow on Sunday for the United Nations’ climate summit, known as COP26, which is seen as crucial to addressing the threat of rising temperatures.

The G20 bloc, which includes Brazil, China, India, Germany and the United States, accounts for an estimated 80% of global greenhouse gas emissions, but hopes the Rome meeting might pave the way to success in Scotland have dimmed considerably.

Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russia’s Vladimir Putin both decided to follow events only via video link and diplomats looking to seal a meaningful accord said both countries, as well as India, were resisting ambitious new climate goals.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson acknowledged the G20 and COP26 talks would be difficult, but warned that without courageous action, world civilisation could collapse as swiftly as the ancient Roman empire, ushering in a new Dark Age.

‘It’s going to be very, very tough to get the agreement we need,’ he told reporters, standing next to the ruins of the Colosseum amphitheatre – a symbol of once mighty Rome.

Climate efforts 

A draft communique seen by Reuters said G20 countries will step up their efforts to limit global warming at 1.5 degrees Celsius – the level scientists have said is necessary to avoid disastrous new climate patterns.

The document also acknowledges that current national plans on how to curb harmful emissions will have to be strengthened, but offered little detail on how this should be done.

Additionally, the leaders are set to pledge to halt financing of overseas coal-fired power generation by the end of this year, and to ‘do our utmost’ to stop building new coal power plants before the end of the 2030s.

Apparently relishing in-person diplomacy after months of relative isolation, the leaders held numerous meetings on the sidelines, including discussions between the United States, Britain, Germany and France on Iran’s nuclear programme.

‘It is great to see all of you here, after a difficult few years for the global community,’ Draghi said, catching the largely upbeat mood amongst those present.

Far from the conference centre, known as ‘The Cloud’, several thousand protesters staged a loud, but peaceful demonstration in the city centre to demand action to stem climate change.

‘We are holding this protest for environmental and social issues and against the G20, which continues undaunted on a path that has almost led us to social and ecological failure,’ said protester Edoardo Mentrasti.

Reporting by Reuters. 

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